Editorial from the August 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard
In May 1945 four Japanese cities, including Hiroshima, were designated as possible targets for the US atomic bomb. Although American bombing raids were encountering only minimal resistance, the chosen cities were to be spared any aerial bombardment in order that the effects of the new bombs could be accurately assessed.
The first bomb, "Little Boy" (uranium gun) was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August at 8.16 a.m. —the height of the Japanese rush hour when the maximum number of people were exposed. No prior warning was given. On 8 August, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan. The very next day "Fat Man" (plutonium implosion) was dropped on Nagasaki.
Until the atomic bombs were dropped the American President, Harry Truman, had insisted that unconditional surrender and the removal of the Japanese Emperor were the only possible terms he could offer— despite warnings from some of his own advisers that such conditions were unlikely to be accepted and comprised a major obstacle to ending the war. Almost immediately afterwards, however, the proposals were modified allowing the Emperor to remain.
The claim that the use of the atom bombs prevent an imminent invasion is completely unfounded. In this case contingency invasion plans had been prepared but it was never expected that they would need to be activated. The earliest date proposed for even a preliminary incursion was 1 November 1945 and for a full invasion not until Spring 1946—nearly eight months after the bombing of Hiroshima. The official US Strategic Bombing Survey produced quite soon after the war stated that “certainly prior to 31st December 1945, and in all probability even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, Japan would have surrendered, even if Russia had not entered the war. and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated”.
The US was not concerned with this, but with flexing its imperialist muscles in order to achieve its position for the post-war settlements.
The dropping of the atomic bombs has rightly been described as “barbaric" but the conduct of war is a thoroughly nasty business and its consequences invariably strangely similar. In any war. treachery, deceit, cruelty and power posturing are commonplace. It would be a serious mistake to imagine for one moment that had any of the other imperialist powers succeeded in making atom bombs first, they would have behaved much differently.